I am pretty privileged to have grown up with some incredible teachers. In one of my high school history classes I remember one such awesome teacher talking to us about power, democracy and how our system works. He said “the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.” At the time, that really got me thinking. I was in this class around the time September 11th happened, and there was a lot going on in our country. In the small town where I attended high school, a lot of racism and violence began to rear it’s ugly head, and I had been struggling to understand how that could happen so quickly, and what I could do about it. I decided to never be apathetic about the process of democracy, or about what went on around me. I decided that I was seeing all this hate, and I wanted to be the opposite and I wanted to create love in my community, but to do that, I had to care. We have to care. As Lin Manuel wrote in the musical, Hamilton: “If you don’t stand for something, what will you fall for?”
Last night I was lucky enough to be able to go to a filmed showing of George Takei’s showing for Allegiance, about the Japanese Internment. Before the show, one of the members of the local Japanese-American Community spoke. He said “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear.” That also sparked my mind. If we want to be able to spread love in our communities, we need to stop being afraid. Which is hard. Fear is a visceral human reaction to what is new, and it is so easy now to have our hearts fill up with fear. We have constant new technologies, new discoveries, globalization, and so much more constantly causing us to shift, and question our views. It can be very difficult. To some people, this makes them feel on edge, unsettled, or unsafe. But new does not always equal not safe. As we consciously, intentionally take time each day to work on confronting and dissecting the fears we have, we’ll probably realize that although fictional, Yoda was very correct: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”.
When we see suffering in the world, and we truly struggle to find tangible ways to make a difference, by caring we have set ourselves on the first step of the path to making a difference. By working to set aside our fears, we take another step on that path. These two steps are so much more important that we give them credit for. In the book “1984” , two of the main tools of the authoritarian state were apathy, lack of caring and connection, and fear.
That is why we need to make that our foundation. Being mindful enough to manage our fears and our cares. By doing this we can build the rest of our work on this foundation. It seems like a tall order to demand of ourselves to be fearless and passionate, but when we see the small spring where that river starts, we see that to be someone who makes a positive difference in the world, it starts with making a positive difference in ourselves, and it is completely within our abilities to accomplish!